Relating personal experience - Isn't it strange ...

This sub-forum all discussions about this "lively" subject. All topics that are substantially about helmets will be moved here, if not placed here correctly in the first place.
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mjr
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Re: Relating personal experience - Isn't it strange ...

Postby mjr » 15 Jan 2016, 11:29am

rfryer wrote:But all of the potentially fatal head injuries that amounted to nothing because the victim was wearing a helmet are missing from the statistics. And all of the minor injuries (that I do consider relevant) are completely absent.

I'd like to offer another way of thinking about this small aspect: we have such a long cycling history recorded in various official statistics and EN-helmet-wearing is a relatively recent thing, so statisticians like me should actually be able to identify such victims going "missing" without a corresponding change in any other trends (such as overall road casualties, total cycling activity and so on) - it hasn't happened significantly AFAIK.

And some minor injuries are shown in both STATS19 (as "slight" severity) and Hospital Episode Statistics, so we would see a fraction of the reduced-by-helmet injuries show up there - I've not read of that happening either.

Now, I know that absence of evidence for an effect isn't evidence for the absence of that effect, but it does mean that we've also no reason to think that effect is actually happening!

So we return to the usual standard for public health: if there is no evidence that an expensive (in multiple ways) treatment offers any evidenced benefit, why do it?
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Re: Relating personal experience - Isn't it strange ...

Postby TonyR » 15 Jan 2016, 1:04pm

mjr wrote:
rfryer wrote:But all of the potentially fatal head injuries that amounted to nothing because the victim was wearing a helmet are missing from the statistics. And all of the minor injuries (that I do consider relevant) are completely absent.

I'd like to offer another way of thinking about this small aspect: we have such a long cycling history recorded in various official statistics and EN-helmet-wearing is a relatively recent thing, so statisticians like me should actually be able to identify such victims going "missing" without a corresponding change in any other trends (such as overall road casualties, total cycling activity and so on) - it hasn't happened significantly AFAIK.


You don't even need to do that. If you assume that helmeted and unhelmeted cyclists have the same accident rate you will see immediately that there is a lower proportion of helmeted dead cyclists in the morgue than their proportion on the roads. i.e. some of the helmeted cyclists are missing. If helmets were 100% effective you would find that although 30%-ish of cyclists wear a helmet, there are no helmeted cyclists in the morgue, just unhelmeted ones. But the fact that the ratios are roughly the same indicates that there are no missing cyclists (or that helmet wearers are much more accident prone to just the right degree to offset the protection given by the helmet)

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Re: Relating personal experience - Isn't it strange ...

Postby admin » 15 Jan 2016, 2:19pm

Going back to the original question, I think there is a tension between what is apparently best for individual people (based on personal experience), and what is apparently best for society as a whole (based on data, statistics). I think that the helmet advocates perhaps tend to think more about protecting themselves as individuals than about what is best for society as a whole.

The same problem exists in the USA over gun ownership. From a personal point of view, if everyone else has guns, then it seems to make sense to own a gun too. American people get very angry, and feel threatened, if you suggest that they might have to give up their gun. But from a point of view of the whole of American society, mass gun ownership is clearly a Very Bad Idea.

It's easy to base decisions on personal experience, and such decisions are by definition very personal things. It's harder to take a broad view and look at things from the perspective of society as a whole.

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Re: Relating personal experience - Isn't it strange ...

Postby Vorpal » 15 Jan 2016, 3:07pm

Where to start?... :wink:

I don't mind one way or the other whether people wear helmets. I really don't. However, I do think that people should make educated decisions about it, and generally think that anyone who believes that cycle helmets save lives probably haven't examined the available data. Frankly, the likelihood that a helmet will make a difference for a person in an incident are tiny, even vanishingly small.

My biggest problem with helmet discussions, though is that helmets are nothing but a big fat red herring.

I don't like helmet proselytising because it implies that helmets are a safety measure. They aren't. Reducing crashes is a safety measure.
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Re: Relating personal experience - Isn't it strange ...

Postby rmurphy195 » 15 Jan 2016, 6:16pm

Vorpal wrote:Where to start?... :wink:

I don't mind one way or the other whether people wear helmets. I really don't. However, I do think that people should make educated decisions about it, and generally think that anyone who believes that cycle helmets save lives probably haven't examined the available data. Frankly, the likelihood that a helmet will make a difference for a person in an incident are tiny, even vanishingly small.

My biggest problem with helmet discussions, though is that helmets are nothing but a big fat red herring.

I don't like helmet proselytising because it implies that helmets are a safety measure. They aren't. Reducing crashes is a safety measure.


Primary v Secondary Safety

Primary safety - Reducing (pref removing) crashes - we all work towards this, do we not?
(I should certainly hope so, at least when things are under our control)

Secondary safety - Reducing the impact of a crash if it occurs.
Hopefully (but not necessarily) only when things are not under our own control
Helmets (and e.g. body armour used by downhillers) come under this heading

Both are safety measures
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Re: Relating personal experience - Isn't it strange ...

Postby Vorpal » 15 Jan 2016, 6:38pm

Do you consider a general helmet (or for that matter, body armor), worn whilst walking or driving to be a safety measure? If so, against what?
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Re: Relating personal experience - Isn't it strange ...

Postby TonyR » 15 Jan 2016, 11:35pm

rmurphy195 wrote:
Secondary safety - Reducing the impact of a crash if it occurs.
Hopefully (but not necessarily) only when things are not under our own control
Helmets (and e.g. body armour used by downhillers) come under this heading

Both are safety measures


Except for the minor inconvenience that the HSE says that bicycle helmets are not PPE.

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Re: Relating personal experience - Isn't it strange ...

Postby pjclinch » 16 Jan 2016, 11:05am

admin wrote:Going back to the original question, I think there is a tension between what is apparently best for individual people (based on personal experience), and what is apparently best for society as a whole (based on data, statistics). I think that the helmet advocates perhaps tend to think more about protecting themselves as individuals than about what is best for society as a whole.


Some of them do, but some of them (i.e., Angela Lee) are quite vocal about their requirement without even bothering to ride a bike themselves.

But the "personal experience" isn't typically a very useful thing to base these decisions on, it's normally just a contributory factor to an exercise in confirmation bias. So you bumped your head cycling, "obviously" you should wear a helmet. You tripped over and bumped your head, well "obviously" that happens from time to time but not often enough to really worry about.

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Re: Relating personal experience - Isn't it strange ...

Postby Vorpal » 18 Jan 2016, 1:07pm

The red herring thing... Chris Boardman says it much better than I can. http://road.cc/content/news/111258-chri ... cling-safe
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Re: Relating personal experience - Isn't it strange ...

Postby mjr » 18 Jan 2016, 2:51pm

Chris Boardman may say that but he advises British Cycling whose event rules force people pootling on charity fundraisers to wear helmets, so I think Mr Boardman needs to win the argument with his own organisation before we start praising him too strongly.
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Re: Relating personal experience - Isn't it strange ...

Postby [XAP]Bob » 18 Jan 2016, 3:08pm

mjr wrote:Chris Boardman may say that but he advises British Cycling whose event rules force people pootling on charity fundraisers to wear helmets, so I think Mr Boardman needs to win the argument with his own organisation before we start praising him too strongly.

"He advises"

it's not "his" organisation....
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Re: Relating personal experience - Isn't it strange ...

Postby mjr » 18 Jan 2016, 3:55pm

[XAP]Bob wrote:
mjr wrote:... I think Mr Boardman needs to win the argument with his own organisation before we start praising him too strongly.

"He advises"

it's not "his" organisation....

He has a job title of British Cycling Policy Advisor. You know what I mean. I think it would be an excellent thing if he can persuade them to follow his advice!
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Re: Relating personal experience - Isn't it strange ...

Postby pjclinch » 18 Jan 2016, 8:26pm

I continue to be rather frustrated by BC's rather schizophrenic take... but on the other hand that they're schizophrenic about it is better than the unqualified support they used to deal in and I suspect it's CB that's mainly responsible for the amount of Clueful intelligent stuff that does come out of them.

A rather bizarre recent revision is on https://www.britishcycling.org.uk/campaigning/article/20150113-campaigning-General-policies-0, where a fairly Boardmanesque piece gives eminently sensible reasoning about why it'd be rather weird to promote helmets but is prefaced by a fairly blatantly glued-on We recommend people wear helmets. Hmmmm...
As a BC member I did send in what I hope was a reasonably polite and considered note about it, but it wasn't dignified by a reply. There does seem to be a Panic Stations response to anything about helmets that goes in, based on someone high up being quite unable to give up on the idea that they must be a Win. That's a disaster, but that CB still manages to get sensible comment out (e.g., https://www.britishcycling.org.uk/article/20141103-campaigning-news-Boardman--Why-I-didn-t-wear-a-helmet-on-BBC-Breakfast-0) is kudos to him.

In summary, 3 cheers for CB and one, maybe two for BC.

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Re: Relating personal experience - Isn't it strange ...

Postby rmurphy195 » 18 Jan 2016, 9:59pm

Hi, it's the OP here - back to personal experience ...

I do hark back to the heady days of the late 60's when I used to just get the bike out of the shed, and hop onto it and cycle from my home in east Birmingham out to Tamworth, or Fillongley, or to watch the planes at Elmdon Airport as it was then just clad in my normal shoes, trousers and shirt, with a cape in my saddlebag in case it rained. I'll call this "Shirtsleeves" mode.

Then later, on my shiny Raleigh sports bike bought with my first pay packets - same thing, except to work each day and out at weekends.

While I did succumb to the classic "car pulling across in front of me and into the back of it I went", close shaves were rare and as I recollect I had only a handful - in total in several years! Car drivers and cyclists were all just people on the road.

Fast forward to the early 90's. Took up cycling again to regain some fitness. By then I'd been through the motorbike phase (when I found at first hand that bonedomes were a good idea, let alone compulsory) and the seat belt thing had become so obvious that I fitted them to my old bangers even before they were compulsory. Cycling helmets had appeared by then, so it was only natural to wear one. For which I was very grateful.

For suddenly I was banging my head on overhanging branches on country lanes. Such things didn't seem to exit in my yoof, and neither did the overhanging head-height door mirrors on trucks, on which I banged my head as I sat upright having stopped at a red light, just as a lorry pulled up beside me! By then I'd already discovered the joys of delayed-concussion-from-a-bang-on-the-head so I was happy to escape that one, thank you!

But even then I was quite happy to commute long the main Bristol road into my office central Birmingham during the rush hour from time to time until I had to move jobs in the mid 90's.

Fast forward again about 12 years, during which time my riding in Brum had been just Saturday afternoons across into Selly Oak,or the MAC for to meet up fr the occasional club evening ride. Still in Shirtsleeves mode, plus a helmet.

Now I'm getting more close shaves - a handful each month, then each week, - then on each ride. Finally ended up getting shaved too closely and thankful for getting off lightly (and for landing handily in the roadway outside the fire station!). Big bruises on the various "contact points" under soft clothing, hardly a mark under the contact point under a not-so-soft helmet.

So now I still have a hat, but take care to wear light-coloured shirts, and/or hi-viz, - and a bikecam in case I get walloped by another t**-**g who decides to bend the truth to take advantage of will-o-the-wisp witnesses. And I use bike paths more. And pavements.

And like BC (and someone from Spa Cycles I think it was in a magazine a few months back) I want to go back to the shirtsleeves approach to cycling.

But we aren't there yet, so I don't mind expressing my preferences for wearing a helmet for most of my riding 'cos I have personal experience of the benefits, even though I'd rather not have to. I want to enjoy my cycling for a while yet, and I don't want my wife to enjoy having to care me 'cos I couldn't be bothered with a little caution.

After all, that's why I fitted those seatbelts (and yes, they worked too).
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Re: Relating personal experience - Isn't it strange ...

Postby mjr » 18 Jan 2016, 10:08pm

rmurphy195 wrote:... Cycling helmets had appeared by then, so it was only natural to wear one. For which I was very grateful.

For suddenly I was banging my head on overhanging branches on country lanes. Such things didn't seem to exit in my yoof, and neither did the overhanging head-height door mirrors on trucks, on which I banged my head as I sat upright having stopped at a red light, just as a lorry pulled up beside me!...

Is this serious? Like you, I started wearing a helmet and I started banging my head on overhanging branches. When I stopped wearing a helmet, I was worried about banging my head on stuff but in fact I actually stopped hitting it so often because my head was once again the size I expected it to be and I intuitively positioned it away from the branches and so on!

And what the heck was a lorry doing pulling up that close alongside you? :shock:
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